As your body grows and changes, gaining and losing some weight is part of developing into a healthy young adult. But gaining or losing too much weight at any point in your life can be hazardous to your health. Keeping your body weight in a healthy range goes a long way toward keeping your heart healthy.
- About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese.
- Obesity and extra weight is harmful to almost EVERY organ in the body.
- Being overweight can lead to many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, asthma and even some types of cancer.
- Children under age 13 who are overweight may start developing heart disease as early as age 25.
- Obesity makes life physically challenging and often causes children and teens to experience low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
How do I know if I am at a healthy weight?Since many young people are constantly growing, a healthy weight for children and teens depends on their age, height and weight. If you had height and weight measurements recently taken by a doctor or healthcare provider, you can use these measurements to determine your Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is measured differently in adults than in children, so it is important to use the proper calculate to find out yours. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an online BMI calculator for children and teens and growth charts to help healthcare providers determine whether a child is at a healthy body weight, underweight, overweight, or obese.
Talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about your weight. If you’re at a healthy weight, learn how to maintain it. Keeping track of your weight is a good way to make sure your weight is staying in healthy ranges.
How do I keep my weight healthy?Keeping a healthy weight is best achieved over time and with a decision to keep yourself healthy. Everyone needs a certain amount of calories to perform normal daily activities. If you gained weight, you may have taken in more calories than your body needed and the extra calories were stored as fat. If you are very active, you may also gain weight as muscles. If you eat fewer calories than you use through physical activity, you can lose weight. Look at the food diary you are using so you’ll know how much you’re eating and whether you’re eating out of habit or boredom instead of real hunger.
It’s also important to get enough regular physical activity — at least 60 minutes a day. Check out the American Heart Association’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Kids infographic. Even if you can’t find that much time, something is ALWAYS better than nothing. And remember, all activities count toward keeping a healthy body weight.
Making active choices such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or adding short episodes of walking to the day can help you control your weight and help your heart. A good plan includes at least 60 minutes daily of physical activity that makes you breathe hard or sweat, like brisk walking, bike riding or running.
You can take a few steps to eat well and maintain a healthy body weight:
- Invite your whole family to help you make a healthy eating plan.
- Learn about healthy food choices. Plan your healthy meals and snacks and stick with it.
- Think ahead. When you get tired and hungry, you’re more likely to pick quick and easy foods that may not be as nutritious or snack on junk.
- Learn to steam your veggies for a quick and easy way to healthier eating.
- Read food labels and avoid foods that are high in added sugars, sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and calories.
- Try fun activities that you can do with your friends and family to reach your goal of 60 minutes each day.
- Find an “exercise buddy” who likes to do similar activities as you, so that you’ll both want to get out and play.
Here are some tips and questions to help you think about healthy weight for heart health:
- Ask your parent or guardian if you can talk to your doctor to find out if you’re at a healthy weight.
- What are some healthy snacks you can make so you’re not reaching for less healthy treats?
- What’s your favorite way to get physical activity?
- Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
- The AHA's Recommendations for Physical Activity in Children
Last reviewed 8/2014